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How AOC Is Redefining Democratic Virtue

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has leveraged her party into a new era of progressivism, all while enduring endless attacks for every breath uttered and word spoken.

Mar 9, 2019

From the moment she [ousted] ( [ten term] ( Democratic powerhouse Joe Crowley, it was clear the influence of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would extend far beyond her district in New York City.
Sworn in on Jan. 3 2019, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest female member to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, and as a progressive woman of color, she has become the symbol for a new era of forward thinking diversity – one that is becoming the norm for an evolving Democratic party. This is from both her mere presence in the U.S. Congress, but also her policies, finally addressing issues that have been pushed aside or deemed too contentious to address with legislation.
While Republicans tend to outright [deny or minimize] ( the problem of Global Warming, Democrats often claim to understand it, but until recently have resoundingly little to back that up.
In 2019, this began to change. The Green New Deal, co-sponsored by Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator, Ed Markey, is a framework designed to increase U.S. effort to combat Global Warming, an issue that CNN reports 64 percent of Americans want addressed.
The Green New Deal details that efforts will be made toward upgrading to eco-friendly sources of electricity like power grids, working to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sectors, providing quality affordable food, healthcare and housing to all, reducing pollution by restoring natural ecosystems and working with indigenous people when construction may cut across sacred land.
While certain current Democratic leaders remain skeptical, notably speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who faced sharp criticism after disparaging a group of children that asked her to consider the proposal. Meanwhile, the Green New Deal has secured the backing of every single major Democratic 2020 hopeful thus far. Although it's unlikely the legislation would pass under the current Republican Senate majority, the mere fact that Ocasio-Cortez has successfully pushed a major Global Warming-combater into the mainstream Democratic psyche, is an accomplishment in itself.
Another well known Ocasio-Cortez-backed initiative is raising taxes on the wealthy, up to as high as 70 percent. This idea was articulated on the show 60 minutes where Ocasio-Cortez explained “Your tax rate, you know, let's say, from zero to $75,000 may be ten percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to... your 10 millionth dollar — sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn't mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.”
The idea is ambitious, though not nearly to the extent Republicans would like you to believe. As recently as 1980, the United States taxed incomes above $216,000 at 70-80 percent, which is equivalent to 658,213 in today’s USD.
Raising taxes to these rates is something a majority of the U.S. agrees with. A poll run by Hill–HarrisX asked potential voters, “Would you favor or oppose a tax proposal that would apply a 70 percent rate to the 10 millionth dollar and beyond for individuals making $10 million a year or more in reportable income?” The poll showed that 59 percent of voters stated they would.
The idea has even been picked up by 2020 hopeful and former mayor of San Antonio, Julián Castro demonstrating his support in an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, stating, “As you know, George, there was a time in this country where the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent...”
Former Chief Economist, Stephanie Kelton, of the Senate Budget Committee credits Ocasio-Cortez for this mindset. She commented, “They used to talk about the Oprah effect… I think it’s the Ocasio effect at this point.” As a woman of color and a self-described socialist, Ocasio-Cortez has endured countless attacks. It is a fair argument to make, that no other person in Congress in 2019 has endured such ridiculous berating about absolutely anything and everything. Conservative media has imploded over “scandals” such as a “leaked” video of her dancing to the song Lisztomania, paying her staff the livable D.C. wage of $52,000, and a disproven nude photo.
Just by taking a look at some recent headlines about Ocasio-Cortez, the Conservative obsession is made immediately clear. The conservative media outlet Townhall published, “Brutal Fact Check: 'Four Pinocchios' for Ocasio-Cortez on Ludicrous Single-Payer Healthcare Claims.” Sean Hannity’s website published, “CORTEZ: Renewable Energy Will Lead to ‘Economic, Social, Racial Justice’ in the USA.” The Independent Sentinel explained, “Alexandria O-Cortez Wants Her 'Green New Deal' to Morph Into Marxism.” And even the more moderate National Review noted “AO-C Is Not A-OK.” However, the hyperpartisan attacks endured by Ocasio-Cortez may have a silver lining. According to Vice Media, “those articles attacking her ultimately end up elevating her profile. It's a funny sort of a cycle: The more she's attacked the more famous she is, the more worthy she is of attack.”
Despite this all, Ocasio-Cortez has remained a progressive leader, and is unflinching in the face of endless conservative criticism. Regardless of political opinion, it would be difficult to argue that she has not been impactful. Ocasio-Cortez has single handedly enabled a more progressive platform for the Democrats to rally behind, leaving Democratic centrists – like her primary opponent Joe Crowley – in the dust. Waleed Shahid, who worked on the campaign that launched Ocasio-Cortez to mainstream consciousness, explained that Ocasio-Cortez has been “Able to create a litmus test around climate and economic policy for every 2020 Democrat.”
Ocasio-Cortez is the new face of progressivism, and she is bringing the Democratic party with her. Both Republican and Democratic party leaders will have to contend with the changing shape of the new generation that Ocasio-Cortez embodies.
Ari Hawkins is a Deputy Opinon Editor. Email him at
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